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Free Why Bother Reading Poetry Essay Sample

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The question of the type “Why bother reading poetry?” is not new. Speculations on the importance and value of poetry date back to the appearance of poetry as a genre. Many poets, critics, and poetry lovers took part in this active discussion. I consider myself to be a poetry lover, and in my opinion poetry turns all things to loveliness. I am afraid that poetry can die some day and with poetry whole language will be dead as well. For me, poets are creators of language. Therefore, when I am asked if some resources like Sparknotes can substitute reading poetry, I always answer negatively. Poetry is not just text, but it is the emotion and soul of a poet.

The language in modern society is fundamentally different from the language of the previous epochs. Moreover, the speed with which it changes is amazing. Environment of the most powerful language of communication today is represented by the Internet with all its emanations, such as Facebook, Twitter or SparkNotes. The root of the phenomena lies in the fact that machine technology changes the composition of culture. In plain words, texts give place to texting.

A relatively small size of the cultural stratum of poetry lovers is explained by a specific type of organization of artistic speech (with increased depth and capacity), which requires a developed educational matrix of perception: erudition, ability to empathize and understand the specific form and content, logic and insight thinking. Therefore, many students who are unable to understand—or have no time to do it—turn to such resources as SparkNotes to find adapted versions of famous literary works. At SparkNotes website its owners state that “it is a resource you can turn to when you’re confuzzled. We help you understand books, write papers, and study for tests.” At the same time they assure that they “never leave out important info.” This is hardly true for prose, and completely wrong for poetry, since in poetry every word is an “important info”.

A poetic word is more than a word. It affects all senses; it can reflect and portray color, shape, depth, volume, space, time, and may represent the invisible. The essence of poetry is unchanged: this art form with a certain method of speech organization conveys thoughts and feelings, importance of events and philosophical significance. A poetic line, meter, rhyme reinforce the poetic impact on a creative personality. In the metaphorical sense poetry is the image of beauty and elegance expressed by means of poetic language, since a prose text can also contain elements of poetry.

As an example of the above stated ideas I chose the poem Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden (1913–1980):

Sundays too my father got up early / and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, / then with cracked hands that ached / from labor in the weekday weather made / banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. / I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. / When  the rooms were warm, he’d call, / and slowly I would rise and dress, / fearing the chronic angers of that house, / Speaking indifferently to him, / who had  driven out the cold / and polished my good shoes as well. / What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices?

An adopted version of this poem can be found at different resources in the Internet, for example, at Wiki.Answers.com:

A man looking back at his childhood; he remember an event that made him realize that he had not treated as father with as much love and respect as the father deserved. But instead of allowing himself to wallow in guilt and self-recrimination, he offers a question that puts his attitude in proper perspective: he just did know any better. If he had known better, he could have done better.

But this is only what can be seen from the first glance. More informative articles of SparkNotes type mention the sounds of Hayden’s word choices, which convey additional information: “blueblack cold,” “cracked hands that ached,” “banked fires blaze,” “cold splintering, breaking,” “chronic angers,” “driven out the cold.” The sounds of the consonants are also mentioned as the key to this poem. All reviews agree that as a child, the speaker doubted his father’s love, but in the older age he understood that love is often expressed silently and indirectly. Also it is noted that the conflict in the poem is all on the surface and there is no hidden meaning.

In general, I agree with the conclusions from short reviews of the poem. However, it should be noted that the value of poetry, expressed by the general idea of this paper, is that everyone can find something different, discover some meaning, hidden for another reader. I, for instance, would like to mention understatement and allusion, so widely used in poetry. Through some allusions, understatement, and partly by the effect of sound, the poet creates a grim picture of a father who sacrificed a great deal for his family, but also, as it may seem brutalized him. The narrator’s anger and guilt can be felt in the first two stanzas. On the other hand, Hayden uses the past tense, which can suggest that, over time, the narrator forgave his father.

If one is going to understand this poem by reading Sparknotes (or similar source) he will grasp the idea, meaning, and moral message. However, he will miss the feeling of guilt and sorrow hidden in each stanza. Besides, each poem always leaves a certain “aftertaste”, which can be different for everyone, depending on the manner of thinking. In this poem, for example, one may feel a desire to call his parents, and another may try to show his love for his child.

Neither the growing preponderance of the prose language elements, nor a rapid development of science and web technologies, nor a possible transformation of the social order threaten the existence of poetry, although they can strongly influence its shape. Its role is still enormous; the task of poetry is similar to the task of science – to reduce the infinite variety of reality to a smaller number of possible generalizations – but its means are often wider. Its emotional element (aesthetics) gives it the opportunity to influence where the dry formulas of science are powerless. Moreover, without the need for accurate constructions, by generalizing in an unproven but convincing way the infinite variety of nuances that escape from the Procrustean bed of logical analysis, poetry anticipates the findings of science. Generating a common feeling, giving the most subtle and at the same time commonly understood expression of spiritual life it unites people, complicates their minds, and enriches their language. This is its primary value; this is the reason of its endowment among other arts.

Humanity needs poetry. Benefits that people receive reading a poem can be compared with benefits from enjoying a picture or listening to music. As with any type of art, poetry affects spiritual world. Poetry offers a new way of understanding, provides an opportunity to express the feelings that accumulate inside. Poetry elevates people over the everyday world, everyday life and enriches the spirit. Poetry helps to be kinder, gentler, more courageous and resolute. Ability to compose words in rhymes cannot be called a simple skill or a genre of literature. Poems are the essence of the human soul, concentrated sensations and feelings, the works which give the opportunity to experience catharsis.

Therefore, I do not believe that poetry can be understood and studied by means of Sparknotes. It can help on some level, but it will never become a substitute of an independent perception. 

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